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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Guest Post: Liquid Assets, By Shelly Klassen

Shelly Klassen, along with her husband Kim, and several other friends visited us in Nairobi in April of 2011. Below are some of her observations and a little bit about how the trip here has IMPACTED her life, her thinking and her perception since being here in Kenya.

Liquid Assets
By Shelley Klassen
 
      It has been very hot and muggy these last few days in Saskatoon. I don't do hot and muggy very well so last night my husband "mopped" me up off the floor and took me out for ice-cream to revive me. Dear man...such sacrifice!
 
      Oddly, whenever I indulge in anything ice-cream related I tend to get thirsty so I requested a water as well. It came in a large cup, very cold, very refreshing.
 
      We had some shopping to do so,after finishing my ice-cream, I took a couple swallows and stood to leave. As I reached down to pick up my purse my eyes fell upon that cup of water...just sitting there...mostly full...and thats when it hit me. How much is that cup of water worth? It didn't cost me anything and I won't miss it when I leave. Some young teen-ager, working for a living, will come along, pick it up and dump the water down the drain. No big deal...right?
 
       Thats what I would have thought five months ago...before my eyes were opened...before Africa.
 
       What I saw last night when I looked at that cup of water were the faces of the many children in the slums of Nairobi.Faces of children who are hungry and thirsty every day, children whose parents are forced to give them gutter water filled with filth and human feces because there is no money to purchase clean, healthy water.What is a cup of water worth? To these children, more than can be imagined.
 
       Since our missions trip to Kenya with Mission:180 I have changed in many ways.I used to put my leftover pasta in the fridge where it would sit until it became a solid, gelatinous mass which I would then toss into the trash. Now I cannot justify the waste, not when I have seen the faces of hunger up close and personal. My husband jokes that I am trying to starve him because the fridge is much emptier than it used to be. In reality, I am simply using up what I have before making something new.I now compost what is left over.
 
       While watering my plants the other day it struck me, as with the glass of water, how I was wasting this clean water that would be deemed so precious in Kenya. We now have a rain barrel and I water with the accumulated rainwater instead.
 
       These simple changes may seem silly to those of you reading this, after all, they aren't going to make much difference in Africa. True enough, but they make a difference to me.
 
        You see, when I make the choice to not waste my water and food I am, in my own way, standing with the beautiful Kenyan people that I met in Africa. I am telling them that I have seen the great needs in their country and I will not squander away that which is so precious and lifegiving to them...just because I can. I will value the many blessings that are mine everyday ...and thank God for each one of  them.
 
          The upside to these new "frugal" changes that I have made? The little bit of money that I save I can now send to Kenya and a little child there will not be hungry or thirsty...at LEAST for a day or two.
 
           You CAN"T put a pricetag on that.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Nairobi Children's Home

Keanu and a little friend who sure enjoyed the attention!
John and Junior, peak-a-boo just never gets old, no matter
what continent you are on! 

Jennifer and Joshua with a little guy named Joseph.


Today was a tough day.  We spent the morning at NAIROBI CHILDRENS HOME.  This is the first time we have gone to volunteer at a state run home for children.  This place is the first stop for many children after being found by the police or some concerned person.  They are found abandoned; sometimes they are dropped off and abandoned by their parents or in most cases their mothers.  They are brought here while some kind of long term plan is developed for them.  Family who could take them are sought after, rehabilitation of neglectful or substance abusing parents is attempted, or they are shipped off to a private children’s home, where if they are lucky, the standard of care will be much better.
I held one little baby today whose desperate mother dropped her off at her first day of pre-school, and then never returned.  The pre-school brought her to Nairobi Children’s home and now she is alone because mom is nowhere to be found.
Most of the children at this home are between the ages of 0-6 years, with some exceptions if there are older siblings.  Today, the chalk board in the office entrance says there are 44 residents, but just the last few days there have been as many as 55.
Jacqueline holding Kristen and Diego
Let me tell you the story of Diego, Kristen, and Junior.  Diego and Kristen are twins, and Junior is their older brother.  Three weeks ago, their mother committed suicide.  Their father, her husband, is a chronic alcoholic, and has not provided for the family for some time.  The children were severely malnourished, there was little hope.  Here in Kenya, food prices for even the most basic staples have skyrocketed, and even the most basic meal is insurmountable for so many.  Out of a sense of despair that I sure few of us will ever know, their mom ended her own life.  When their father discovered this, he simply locked the children in the house and left them to die.  Someone found them, and they have ended up at Nairobi Children’s Home for the last three weeks.  When we met them today, their story and their condition reduced me to tears.  It was so difficult.  I was holding Kristen, and when I tried to put her down she wept inconsolably.  The level of fear and neglect we encountered there among these children is too much for words. 
Kristen and I.  She snuggled right in!
When we arrived they gave us the customary tour.  Then, as soon as we met the kids, they started to cling to us, and they did not want to let go.  It was adorable and heartbreaking at the same time.  There was such a sense of desperation.  They wanted affection; they wanted to be held, to be loved, to feel safe.  They wanted and need all the same things kids everywhere want.   It was tough to deal with the kids who so desperately wanted affection, but it was even more difficult to cope with the few who recoiled in fear, absolutely terrified.  Some adult they trusted has done something to steal their sense of safety, their trust, and it was heartbreaking to see this, to experience this.  Our hearts ache for these ones especially. 
As I said before, these children more often than not are settled into private care homes and orphanages.  This is what brought Mission:180 to Kenya to begin with.  Our purpose here is to minister the whole love of God to widows and orphans.  As soon as we can open our doors, and be an operational government approved home, the sooner we can make an impact on the number of children who need the love and stability we aim to provide.   
We are now getting near the point in our time here when we can start to look for land.  We are looking for at least 5 acres, as we feel it’s essential to have lots of space to grow, as well as to produce a large Shamba, (garden), so we can have a sustainable source of produce for the residents of the homes, and possibly a place to graze goats and a few cattle.    This land will cost anywhere between $50,000-$100,000 Canadian dollars.   We know that it is God who has brought us here, for this purpose.  So we know that He will provide the necessary funds for this big undertaking.  

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Missionary Visa's, Ethiopia etc.

Josh in the Empress' seat at Holy Trinity Church
Jacqueline, Heather, Karalee and Josh trying out the pulpit in Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis 


A little Sheppard boy!

Standing on the rim of Mt.Wenchi, an old Volcano in Ethiopia


A couple of weeks ago we  took a week long trip to Ethiopia, we had a very good reason to leave Kenya, but no real reason to go to Ethiopia. Allow me to explain this in a little more detail.  When we arrived in Nairobi six months ago we were given a 3 month tourist visa.  When that first three months was over, we were permitted to renew for another 3 months from within Kenya.  The immigration laws here in Kenya state that if you are still on a tourist visa after 6 months, you must leave Kenya and return to start over again.  You not only have to leave Kenya, you also have to leave what is known as the “East Africa Community”.  The EAC is comprised of the countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.  You may not travel to any of these countries for the purpose of renewing your visa.  So, that explains how we ended up in Ethiopia. We simply went to the next closest place with the best available airfare at the time we needed to make a decision.  
So, we have applied for our resident alien status here in Kenya.  Our application is for what is known as an “E” class permit, A.K.A. a missionary permit.  Both Jennifer and I have been approved, and we will soon have the paperwork in our hands!!!  Josh is approved by default when we are.  Like everything else in Kenya, this is a slow process.  but once we have been given the paperwork we will be residents of Kenya for 3 years.  This is great news as it gives us the green light to move forward with the bigger plans and goals of Mission:180.  We have several possible locations and parcels of land on our radar right now for the childrens homes we are here to build.  This means we are going to have to find some $$$ for the purchase of land.  We are not worried about this in the least,  as I always say, “God’s will, God’s bill”.
Back to Ethiopia, it was a very interesting place to visit, the city of Addis is larger than Nairobi, and even higher in elevation.  Ironically, the traffic is way better in Addis, even though there are more people.  The reason for that is that the government of Ethiopia has imposed a 240% duty on all vehicles imported into the country, and being that no vehicles are produced in Ethiopia, they all have to be imported and the cost of purchasing a vehicle is rather restrictive, even prohibitive to most people in the country.   The taxi cabs are hilarious, they are these 30 year old Lada’s, and Datsun’s, and some Toyota’s.  We stayed in a guest house that was on a fairly steep hill, and every time we got picked up by a taxi, we had to walk to the top of the hill, because the cars could not climb the hill with us in them.  Please reserve comments regarding weight!  LOL.
Ethiopia is steeped in history, and in fact, as I write this, I realize this is the first country I have visited that is mentioned in the Bible, both the old and new testaments in fact.  This is a fact that all Ethiopians are very proud of and it is deeply ingrained in their culture.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church actually teaches that they are the keepers of the original Ark Of The Covenant, and they claim to have it now.  Every single Ethiopian Orthodox Church has an inner sanctuary, a “Holy of Hollies”, and in each of these is a replica of the Ark.  It was very interesting to learn about these aspects of their culture, and it is fascinating that so much of their national identity and even their laws and government are dictated by their religion.  What is not so cool is that this church routinely persecutes any other “christian church”, as false.  By persecutes, I mean they go so far as to kill people claiming to be Christian but not part of their church. 
Then there is the Muslim community, they routinely persecute everyone who is not Muslim.  So Ethiopia is a very religious country, and much of its history and national pride is wrapped up in religion.
Everybody raves about Ethiopian food, and quite frankly I am confused by this.  The staple food, a bread made with a kind of wheat called teft, (not sure how that is spelled), and fermented with yeast.  I thought it was gross.  Sorry to all my friends who are fans of this food....but I just don’t get it. 
While we were there, most of us got quite stomach sick, even to the point of being bedridden in serious pain.  We are pretty sure it was something we ate.  However, this is expected when traveling in the developing world.  Ces La Vie.  
On a bright note, one thing we loved about Ethiopia are some new friendships we made.  We were able to connect with some fellow missionaries from Canada.  J & T, you were very gracious hosts, and very  helpful to us in a time of need.  We are so grateful, and we all enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you.  It was also great to visit with your folks.  I took away some great advice from some wonderful peers.  I also had one of the top 5 cups of coffee I have ever had.  I am a coffee fanatic, and believe me when I say that is a big compliment.  It was also great to learn how to roast green coffee beans in a frying pan.  Thanks for the lesson.  I am a better coffee drinker for it.  
So, from my perspective, Ethiopia was an interesting place to visit, and I would welcome a visit with our new friends from Ethiopia any time.